May 25, 2020
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On The Road

On The Road
Star Bill(ing) that Bounced

Last August, three one-day matches had been organised in Muscat between India and Pakistan. This was primarily a way for players to make some money on their own independent of their boards, during a lull: no series were on, it was just before the Commonwealth Games. Skipper Azharuddin was the man who basically organised the whole thing and the matches were shown live on Sony TV. But while one Indian player got $25,000 for each match and another $15,000 for each, others were hugely dissatisfied with the money doled out to them. One player got just $3,000 for three matches and was so upset that he left abruptly after two matches, citing personal problems. One player was flown in from India at the last moment, who got about $1,000 for three matches! Well, the news is that the player who was in the thick of it all and stood to gain around $200,000 himself for all three games did not get his money at all. It transpires that one of his friends swindled his money from out of the bank! The player in question even hired a private detective to trace both his money and his friend, but with no luck so far. Learning of this, other players were quite happy. The moral of the story, they suggested, was that one shouldn't get too greedy at the cost of others. A lesson to be learnt here.

Nose for News

If there's one cricket journalist who has my respect in terms of being a veritable newshound, it's Debashish Dutta of Aajkal, a Calcutta-based Bengali daily. If the dada happens to be on your side, you could be lavished with news leads and tips that would otherwise be hard to come by. On the World Cup tour, for instance, only Datta among the Indian journalists knew beforehand that Tendulkar would bat at number four in the Kenya match and said as much in his preview report. Says Datta,  The day before the match, I saw Tendulkar, Azharuddin, Jadeja and Gaekwad in a huddle, a little downcast. I knew something was up and so snooped around.  Datta, of course, is a legend among the players and nearly all respect him for his news-gathering abilities. Says Jadeja,  He's the Don Bradman among scribes for news.  Recounts another player,  Once we all emerged from a team meeting where Azhar had some engagement and hadn't been able to attend. Datta called me up within two minutes after we came out and asked why the captain hadn't showed up.  So, for new journalists on the beat, Datta is the guy to please.

Was that a Fair Shout?

The wives of the Sri Lankan cricketers follow the team coach around in a hired car. After the loss to India, Arjuna Ranatunga's wife lashed out at the Lankan players in the dressing room. The Indian wives refrain from such antics. The few spouses who've stayed onócoach Gaekwad and Robin Singh's better halves among them - have found it tough to follow the team around by train and are looking for a driver. The spouses of Mongia, Tendulkar and Ganguly have gone back to India, and just two wives remain - Sangeeta Bijlani and Robin's wife. Mrs Singh likes to watch the team play and isn't too bothered about whether Robin is playing or not. Sangeeta, however, is having a hard time, what with all the remarks and boos from local Indians. Mongia, on the other hand, is expecting to be a father any day now.

Loyalty versus Heritage

His name is Sahibzada Chico Jahangir. He's the grandson of Sir Amiruddin Ahmed Khan, the Nawab of the erstwhile Loharu state near Jaipur. A founder member of the Tehrik-i-Insaf, Imran Khan's political party, Jahangir, now a Pakistani, has been based in London for the last 30 years. He now runs a chain of 10-odd Internet cafes in the city and closely follows the fortunes of both the Pakistani and Indian cricket teams. After Pakistan, he wants India to win. While one of his sons, Sherry Jahangir, picked up an award for playing Jinnah in a television drama in Pakistan last year, his second son plays country cricket for Hertfordshire. Kasil Jahangir, an all-rounder, scored 92 runs and got five wickets against Leicester last week. Of course, with the recent outbreak of hostilities between the two South Asian neighbours, Jahangir's keeping his fingers crossed. For someone whose father was a colonel in the Indian Army and whose uncle was dig, police, at Bareilly in the '50s, this must really be a hard moment.

Media to Match

A personal high point on the World Cup tour is going to be media match that I am helping the British Tourist Authority in Kent organise on June 2. The match is between representatives of the British and the international media. Of course, my bit of organising is limited to putting together the team for the international media.

I think with an Indian media contingent close to 70, including both print journalists and broadcasters, those figures will reflect in the team composition as well. Sunny Gavaskar has, so far, consented to captain the team. Some other luminaries who have said yes to playing are Sanjay Manjrekar, Navjot Singh Sidhu, Atul Wasan and Kirti Azad, which doesn't, of course, augur well for the British side of things.

But celebrity players are a very fickle breed and who knows who might drop out and at what last moment. My own secret ambition is to open with Gavaskar, which is something that people of my generation have dreamt of for years together. I will try my best to bribe the captain for that slot.

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